Why I Don't Print In-House

People are ALWAYS asking me what printer I use - I know that if I post anything about printing, I’ll get about 45 messages with questions about it. The truth is, like with a lot of things we talk about, the tool isn’t the key to doing this right. Knowing which printer I use (it’s either this one, or this one, by the way!) isn’t going to make you create good stationery. It’s not that it’s not a good printer - it totally is - but it’s that printing is a skill and an art form in itself. I actually try to avoid printing in-house whenever I can, and I’ll tell you why!

wildflower wreath invitations

First of all, printing is hard.

It takes years to be good at it, and some people who run businesses in printing still aren’t that amazing at it! Why would there be thousands of print shops everywhere if it weren’t a skill that some people prefer to outsource? And if you don’t have the expertise, then you’re basically running a whole separate business when you’re learning how to print your pieces. Our friends at Design House Prep School have an entire course on Printing Adjustments, because they do choose to print things in-house, but still recognize that having a good printer is nowhere near all it takes.

Printing at home is also costly.

Every time I buy ink for my printer, it’s $114, and that doesn’t last for more than ~12 jobs (or fewer) depending on the size of the job. Plus, if I print in-house, I have to buy paper, which is a totally separate beast to tackle. Most of our outsourced printing vendors provide paper for us with each order. But the most costly aspect of this is the time. Whenever I print a job, it takes 30 minutes - an hour to get the colors and layout exactly right, not including time that goes into getting the right paper, re-loading the printer every few sheets, etc. I personally bill $75/hour for specialized work, so that’s a lot of time I could spend doing other, more lucrative things. Sure, outsourcing printing may cost me slightly more in dollars, but it frees up so much time for me that I make those dollars back (and then some). That’s the entire point of outsourcing, in fact!

There’s lots of equipment, too!

…and we didn’t even take into account the size and cost of the equipment you need to become a productive print shop. I work out of a second bedroom and we are currently downsizing to an even smaller second bedroom. I barely have room for the 2 small printers I have, nonetheless a giant laser printer, a white ink printer, a stack cutter, and all the other supplies I’d eventually need if I tried to bring everything under one roof. You know who does have plenty of room and money for those things? My Print Vendors.

And most importantly: Printing. Is. Not. My. Job.

I realize I sound passionate about this, and it’s not to say that anyone who prints in-house is less of a designer - for one, you will NEVER find me disrespecting the great Victoria’s design skills, and she prints almost everything in-house. But in order to do that, a designer has to make a choice to take on fewer projects and have more of a hands-on approach in the production. I have made a different choice, to focus on design only, and rely on the experts in printing to do their jobs. This causes me some frustration, sometimes, of course, but so would printing in-house. I talk often about how each part of entrepreneurship is like running a whole different business. I run a stationery design business, a marketing business, a video/blogging business, and a coaching business - I choose not to also run a printing business for my own sanity.

envelope printing

…except when I have to, of course.

There are times when we print in-house, as you’ve undoubtedly seen! I print vellum, some envelopes, handmade paper, and some small projects in-house, mostly because a lot of commercial printers don’t offer those services.

Pros of Printing In-House

There are definitely pros! I won’t tell you how you should run your business, because there’s no 100% right or wrong way. If you print in-house, you can save money sometimes. You also get your prints faster, and have more control over the process and the results. You likely never have to pay for reprints, which I do every now and again, and your production times are quicker! So do what feels right to you, but think about long-term whether you want to be a designer, or a printer, or some combination of both. You can be successful by following any of these paths, but each one requires some sacrifice in other areas and a clear understanding of who you are as a business.

Obviously, we have our Print + Paper Vendor Guide for sale if you want to take a look, and our Invitation Design Guide will help you focus on how to design with printing restrictions in mind as well as prepping your files for printing! Our YouTube Channel has 2 free videos on that subject as well if you already have the design portion under control.